the big three-oh


      n addition to my father's impatience and fleeting attention span, I have a lot of my mother's annoying need to fill silent spaces with polite little chatter and needless worry. I hear her protective-paranoid warnings coming out MY mouth to my friends (all of whom are quite capable of taking care of themselves, I'm sure).

      I see these signs in my siblings, too. My oldest brother (who talks too loud and laughs like a seal in heat) has the same tendency to interrupt that our dad does. He shares Dad's conservative politics, Diet Coke addiction, and kinda dorky older-guy wardrobe. (God, I hope I don't start dressing like Mom. I don't look good in polyester easy-care separates.) He even hunches over the wheel of his car like Dad, hands aflutter, pointing out areas of dubious interest. He also has a drawer full of coupons and proof-of-purchase seals in his kitchen. Is this the same guy who railed against Mom's obsessive coupon-clipping and swore he'd never send in a refund offer?

      The other brother ­ the rebellious one who always talked about moving to California after college ­ is now living in a house two miles from the family homestead in Pennsylvania. Like our father, he spends his weekends working on the house, washing the car, cutting the grass, and keeping up appearances for the benefit of his nice, respectable neighbors.

      And even though I did make it out here (to a ratty old Victorian in the middle of Sin City, no less) I haven't entirely abandoned my suburban heritage ­ I still wash my car in front of the house. (Good thing it doesn't snow in San Francisco, or I'd probably be out shoveling the sidewalks).